Massillon is Once Again the Odds-On Favorite to Win Region 7

The Ohio High School Athletic Association this year re-assigned several schools to various playoff regions based on changing enrollment and current competitive balance adders, with consideration for consolidating geographic locations.  While Region 7 gained a few and lost a few, there appears to be no impact on Massillon’s projection as the clear favorite to once again win out in the region and advance to the state playoffs.  That is based on the Tigers having won last year’s Division II state title, having defeated the Division I champion in the regular season for the second consecutive year, winning four of the last five regional titles and returning a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball.  They also last year outscored their four regional opponents, 157-25.

The Makeup of Region 7

Seven teams have vacated the region from last year, including local schools Green, Lake and North Canton, which have been reassigned to Region 5, and Columbus-area schools Grove City Central Crossing, Watkins Memorial, Columbus Independence and Columbus West.  Taking their places are New Albany and Westerville Central from Division I and Ashland and Columbus Whitehall from Division III.  The region, which is comprised of 25 playoff participants, is heavily laden with teams from Columbus proper, while there are just three from the local area: Massillon, Perry and Wooster.

Regional Powers

The chart below shows the regional playoff performances over the past five years of all the teams in this year’s Region 7.  Massillon clearly stands out above the rest, with four regional titles and 19 playoff wins through inter-regional play.  Behind the Tigers are New Albany, Big Walnut and Columbus DeSales, followed by Canal Winchester and Westerville South.  The remaining teams have had little success in this span time and fall away from those mentioned above.

Note 1: In 2019 only eight teams qualified for the playoffs; there have been at least sixteen since.  So, in order to balance the data across the five years in the chart, the next eight regional placers in 2019 were recognized as having playoff appearances.

Note 2: First round play-in games during the 2020 Covid year are not included in the data.

New Albany – The Eagles have returned to the region having spent the last four years in Division I.  Their best year there came in 2022 when they ranked third in their region with a 7-3 record and went on to defeat Westerville North, Hilliard Davidson and Upper Arlington in the playoffs, before losing to Gahanna Lincoln.  Last year, they beat Westerville Central, but lost to Pickerington Central, 42-16.  In 2017 they lost 24-6 to Massillon in the Division II regional finals.

Big Walnut – The Golden Eagles have played ten playoff games over the past five year and have achieved modest success.  In 2022 they finished first in the regional rankings and commenced the playoffs with wins over Olentangy and Canal Winchester.  But in the third round they lost to Massillon, 42-21.

Columbus DeSales – The Stallions had a great year in 2020, although it occurred in Division III.  During that Covid year they finished the regular season with a 5-1 record, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Columbus Watterson.  Once in the playoffs, the ran off five straight wins before falling in double overtime to Chardon in the state finals.

Canal Winchester – The Indians have been a regular in the playoffs, but have never reached the regional finals.  Last year they managed to win a couple of playoff games, but fell 10-0 to Green.   In 2022 they faced Massillon in Round 2 and lost 23-0.

Westerville South – The Wildcats are a hit and miss in regards to qualifying for the playoffs.  Twice previously they faced the Tigers.  In 2021 they lost 50-19 and last year they lost 50-7.

Aside from those teams and possibly newcomer Westerville Central, there is not a lot of competition for the Tigers.  Approximately half of the teams in the region have not won a playoff game in the past five years.  And six did not even qualify, although three of them are Columbus City schools.  So, the bottom line is that if Massillon takes care of business, they should be considered the favorite in a head-to-head matchup against any other team in the region.

State Powers

The chart below lists the better Division II teams in the state based on playoff performance.  But when it comes to annually having a realistic chance to win a state title, just three teams at this moment rise to the top: Akron Hoban, Massillon and Avon.  Toledo Central Catholic, the 2022 champion, would have been included in this group, but they were downgraded to Division III a year ago.  Also, there appears to be a level of parity within the top group in that no team has won more than a single title in the past five years.

Akron Hoban – The Knights have an outstanding program and are annually considered as the team to beat in Division II.  However, it hasn’t always played out as expected over the past five years.  In 2020 they defeated Massillon in the finals to win the title, but since that time have come up short in state finals games, losing to Cincinnati Winton Woods, Toledo Central and Massillon.  In addition, they lost to Massillon in the 2019 regional finals.  But they have at least advanced to the state finals in four of the five years.  Their primary competitors are Hudson and Walsh Jesuit.

Massillon – The Tigers captured the crown last year with a 7-2 victory over Hoban, bolstered by a tremendous defensive performance.  It was their first title since 1970, having lost in the state finals in six previous attempts, and now claim 25 titles.  They also have more regional championships than any other large public school.  And they have reached the state finals in three of the five years.

Avon – The Eagles appear to be always the bridesmaid, but never the bride.  Although they have captured four regional titles in the last five years, they have never advanced to the state finals in Division II since the regional modifications occurred in 2013.  Three times they lost to Hoban in the state semifinals and Massillon defeated them 35-10 in the 2019 semis.  Also, their lone regional finals loss was to Toledo Central, which went on to take the crown that year.  But don’t count them out.  They always have a formidable team with great coaching.  Their primary competitors are Highland and Olmsted Falls.

Also of note is that Cincinnati Winton Woods, winner of the state title in 2021, has been moved up to Division I on account of an increased competitive advantage adder.

Wrapping up, look for Akron Hoban in Region 5, Avon in Region 6 and Massillon Region 7 to once again advance to the state semifinals.  Region 8 may be up for grabs.  But if any team stands out there it is probably Cincinnati Anderson, as they return stellar quarterback Justice Burnam.  But the Raptors will need to figure out how to climb the hill, based on their 55-7 state semifinal blowout loss to the Tigers last year.  Also keep an eye on Cincinnati LaSalle and Kings.